Monday, 22 July 2024


LUCERNE – Beth Minor’s heart was racing. Her hands were shaking to the point that the 29-year-old could not hold a pencil.

She began taking the oral contraceptive YAZ, also known as Yasmin (drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol), a product of Bayer Corp., in Oct. 2007. She took the pill for two months.

“I started experiencing tremors in my hands in November,” she said. “The tremors moved from my hands to my arms and legs. I'm told by my spouse that I tremble at night in my sleep.

“The symptoms continued to add up: tremors, fatigue, insomnia, muscle weakness, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, excessive perspiration, light periods, irritability and insatiable hunger. I thought I was losing my mind,” Minor said.

Her symptoms began after taking the pill for six weeks.

Minor went to her doctor who diagnosed her with Graves' disease (hyperthyroidism). Her thyroid levels are three to four times what they're supposed to be.

Another side effect of Graves' disease is difficulty getting pregnant. She took YAZ to “jump-start” her reproductive system, in order to become pregnant following the advice of her physician.

She reported her disease to MedWatch, the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) reporting site, Minor said.

Though her symptoms matched with listed possible side effects of YAZ, there is no medical evidence that Graves Disease is connected to the use of the drug.

“I never had any of these symptoms prior to taking the drug YAZ. It is painfully frustrating how my life has been impacted; there are days I cannot lift my toddler,” Minor said.

Minor discovered she wasn’t alone. She found a discussion forum online and received the following e-mail.

“My name is Erin Brockovich and I am in receipt of your e-mail forwarded onto me from Alex. I see that you are experiencing some health problems and have been on the pill YAZ,” the e-mail stated.

According to a Feb. 9 press release from Attorney General Jerry Brown, Bayer is required to launch a $20 million ad campaign to correct misleading information about YAZ.

Brown announced an agreement requiring Bayer Corp. to stop a “deceptive ad campaign” and publicly correct misleading assertions about the product.

“Bayer's deceptive ad campaign led young women to believe that its oral contraceptive would cure symptoms for which it was not approved for use,” Brown said. “This judgment modification forces the company to stop making those claims and spend $20 million correcting misleading assertions about the


Bayer claimed the drug could treat symptoms related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and acne, in addition to anxiety, tension, irritability, moodiness, fatigue, headaches and muscle aches. None of those claims were approved by the FDA.

The press release states, “The Attorney General's Office contends that the advertisements for YAZ violated a 2007 agreement with Bayer after the company failed to adequately disclose safety risks associated with the use of Baycol, a drug used to lower cholesterol, which was pulled from the market in August 2001. The agreement required future marketing, sale, and promotion of pharmaceutical and biological products to comply with all legal requirements, and prohibited Bayer from making false or misleading claims relating to any products sold in the United States.”

The states joining California's agreement are Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

Minor is participating in a class-action lawsuit as a result of her experiences with YAZ. She wants to make others aware of her symptoms to shed some light on the possibility that others may be suffering the same health problems.

“The lawsuit includes the heart and lung problems that are being reported too,” Minor said.

According to YAZ Web site at the most frequent side effects, listed in descending order, reported with the use of the contraception in clinical trials, include upper respiratory infection, headache, breast pain, vaginal moniliasis, leukorrhea, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, vaginitis, abdominal pain, flu syndrome, dysmenorrhea, moniliasis, allergic reaction, urinary tract infection, accidental injury, cystitis, tooth disorder, sore throat, infection, fever, surgery, sinusitis, back pain, emotional lability, migraine, suspicious Papanicolaou smear, dyspepsia, rhinitis, acne, gastroenteritis, bronchitis, pharyngitis, skin disorder, intermenstrual bleeding, decreased libido, weight gain, pain, depression, increased cough, dizziness, menstrual disorder, pain in extremity, pelvic pain and asthenia.

E-mail Mandy Feder at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Editor's note: This story contains graphic information that some readers may find disturbing.





LAKEPORT – An attorney who formerly represented juveniles in criminal and civil cases in the Lake County court system has been sentenced to a year on home detention and three years of formal probation for felony possession of child pornography.


Robert Wayne Wiley, 75, was sentenced on Friday before retired Fresno County Superior Court Judge Harry N. Papadakis, who heard Wiley's case because the rest of the county's judges had recused themselves.


Deputy District Attorney Ed Borg said Wiley received 120 days in county jail and three years of formal, supervised probation.


Wiley's defense attorney, J. David Markham, declined comment on the case.


Borg said Papadakis directed that Wiley be allowed to serve his jail sentence in home detention. Wiley also must register as a sex offender, will not be allowed Internet access and will be subject to search and seizure under the terms of his probation.


For many years Wiley acted as a defense attorney for juveniles offenders, holding a contract with Lake Legal Defense Services, as well as holding a contract with Lake County Superior Court to represent juveniles in civil cases, as Lake County News has reported. Both of those contracts were terminated when Wiley was arrested in September of 2007.


Because of his previous contact with the juvenile justice system, which was managed by Lake County Probation, that agency recused itself from doing a probation report for Wiley's case. Borg said the Mendocino County Probation Department stepped in and completed the report, which suggested the 120 days in jail.


Borg said Papadakis was concerned that Wiley's age and his previous work as a public defender would make Wiley a challenge to house safely in the Lake County Jail, thus the order that he serve his sentence at home.


Wiley previously had been charged with four felony counts of possessing child pornography, but the judge reduced that to two after a preliminary hearing last fall.


In January, Wiley reached an agreement with the District Attorney's Office and pleaded guilty to one felony count of possessing child pornography.


His case came to the attention of investigators in February of 2007, when he left a thumb drive – a small portable device that stores data – in the Department A courtroom, where juvenile matter are heard.


That thumb drive allegedly contained pornographic images, which were discovered when a bailiff opened the drive in an attempt to identify its owner.


In all, investigators would find pornographic materials on several other devices as well, including a thumb drive Wiley was wearing when he was arrested, the computer from his Lakeport office and his home, where they also located several hard drives.


“He was wearing the stuff to court and he had it at his office and he had it at his home,” said Borg.


Borg said he didn't have a total when it came to counting up all the pornographic images and materials, but he said he himself reviewed several hundred of them.


Not all of the materials they found in the investigation were contraband, he said. Some were nudist films; there also were videos of young boys taking part in wrestling tournaments, which were themselves innocent but were strange in the context of being found with the other materials.


Then there were the “very disturbing” materials that investigators found, showing very young children in pornographic situations, said Borg.


None of the images were of children that Wiley knew or represented, according to a previous statement by Borg.


Borg was required to notify the State Bar of California about Wiley's case. He wasn't sure of what action the association will take.


Donald Steedman, State Bar of California supervising trial council, said when they get a complaint about an attorney convicted of a felony they take action.


“The State Bar Court will automatically suspend the attorney from practice,” Steedman said.


Steedman said the State Bar Court must then hold a hearing to decide what discipline is to be imposed.


He said he believed they have already requested certified copies of Wiley's records from the Lake County Superior Court for the purposes of the State Bar Court proceedings.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



SACRAMENTO – Pet owners around the state won't have to pay a new tax when taking their animals for veterinary care.


The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) and The Humane Society of the United States have thanked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California Legislature for responding to the public's opposition to a tax on veterinary care.


The 17-month budget passed late last month by the state Legislature did not include the governor's earlier proposal to broaden the sales and use tax to include veterinary services, a proposal Lake County News has reported on in January.


Leaders of the two organizations that work on behalf of animals and those who care for them expressed their appreciation for the final outcome regarding taxation of veterinary services in the budget bill.


“Requiring pet owners to pay a tax to care for their animals is bad public policy,” said William Grant, II, DVM, president of the CVMA. “We are pleased members of the 'Big Five', including the governor, recognized that and the proposed tax was removed from the final budget bill.”


“On behalf of our 1.3 million California constituents, we are very grateful to California's leaders for recognizing the financial injury associated with the proposed Fido Fine,” said Sacramento-based Jennifer Fearing, chief economist for The HSUS. “This tax would almost certainly have resulted in less medical care for animals and more dogs and cats landing in animal shelters. It was a flawed idea that would've been a step backward in the otherwise progressive trajectory toward more humane treatment of animals in our state.”


Thousands of Californians called an automated phone number established by the governor's office to allow residents to express their support or opposition for the governor's proposal to tax veterinary services.


"The opposition of veterinarians, pet owners and concerned citizens was so intense, a special extension was added to the governor's budget voice mail line to handle the opposition to the tax on pets," Grant said. "We believe the overwhelming number of calls delivered an emphatic message to the governor that taxing pet owners would be hugely unpopular and inequitable."


The budget proposal to extend the sales tax to veterinary services could have added up to 10 percent to the cost of caring for animals in California, according to the state Legislative Analyst's office. This would endanger the health and well-being of animals kept as pets, raised on farms, or sheltered by humane agencies.


Agreeing with one of CVMA's arguments against the proposal, the California Legislative Analyst's Office noted the tax on veterinary services "would create inequities in the tax structure by taxing some services while leaving other similar services untaxed."


"We know the fight to protect animal care from taxation is not over," emphasized Grant. "Our membership remains firmly opposed to taxes that will force our clients to make untenable decisions affecting the quality of life for their pets and that might put our food supply at risk.”



CLEARLAKE OAKS – Sheriff's deputies and California Highway Patrol officers spent several hours involved in the pursuit of an armed suspect on Tuesday afternoon.

Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said that shortly before 1:30 p.m. Tuesday a man called to report that a male subject in a green Ford Explorer had pulled a handgun on him near Morine Ranch Road in Clearlake Oaks.

The case was unfolding all afternoon, as officials tried to determine if what occurred was a road rage incident or a basic case of brandishing a weapon.

Both sheriff's deputies and CHP officers responded to the scene only to find the suspect had fled into the west entrance of the Clearlake Cinder Chip Co.'s quarry, said Bauman.

The sheriff's office received information that the suspect in question was 22-year-old William Cressey, with whom the agency has had previous contacts, Bauman said. Cressey also appeared to have an out-of-state warrant for his arrest.

Deputies and officers found the green Explorer with no weapon inside, said Bauman. The suspect was believed to be on foot from that time forward, although one deputy was reported to be in pursuit of a dirt bike. Later the bike also was found abandoned.

Bauman said five deputies were on scene, with CHP Officer Steve Tanguay reporting that five CHP units also were assisting.

Shortly before 2 p.m. the CHP requested air support. At that point the place was mostly surrounded, said Bauman.

Bauman said before the close of business on Tuesday that he didn't know the severity of the initial crime.

The search was later called off, apparently without an arrest of a subject. There was no information on the status of the case at day's end.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


MIDDLETOWN – An Elk Creek man died Saturday as the result of a motorcycle collision.

Tracy Griffin, 35, was the victim of the fatal crash, which occurred at 3 p.m. Saturday on Butts Canyon Road, according to CHP Officer Steve Tanguay.

Griffin was riding his 2003 Suzuki GSXR1000 motorcycle behind a small group of motorcycle riders on Butts Canyon Road heading toward Middletown from the Napa-Lake County line when he failed to negotiate a left curve and went off of the roadway, Tanguay reported.

Tanguay said Griffin's motorcycle struck the guard rail, which caused Griffin to be thrown from the motorcycle.

Griffin sustained fatal injuries as a result of this collision and was pronounced deceased at the scene, Tanguay said.

When Griffin didn't show up at the meeting point with the group of motorcyclists, they went back to look for him. Tanguay said they found Griffin where the collision occurred.

Tanguay said that CHP Officer Rob Hearn is investigating the collision.




Take a good look at that salad made up of lettuce on your plate next time you are at a restaurant, because slowly but surely it’s going to be disappearing.

In a way the Greeks have shunned lettuce for millennia, they just haven’t broadly advertised the fact. As a whole, Greek culture avoids lettuce since it is associated with impotence in Greek mythology. Additionally, the god Adonis was killed by a wild boar and his body was found lying in a bed of lettuce.

Needless to say both of these things have made lettuce a less-than-attractive item in their cuisine. While lettuce is occasionally used in Greek dishes and salads, the superstition still affects much of Greek cuisine.

Today’s hip young chefs are always looking for a new angle in order to impress their diners. Lately these chefs have decided that lettuce is no longer chic and many restaurants are changing their menus to be more fashionable. So be prepared now to see a lot more herb salads and micro-greens.

It’s not because lettuce is bad or not nutritious, it’s just not “in” anymore. Lettuce is becoming the culinary version of the chartreuse leisure suit. Sure, there are still people wearing them, but who’s going to ask for their advice on what to wear on a date?

Lettuce-free salads are becoming the “in” thing across the nation. Don’t panic though – the self-serve salad bar will always have its place, but you can expect to see it get a makeover with new ingredients soon. After all, you can’t keep the same look for 20 years and not expect someone to want to give you a little upgrade. And apparently, lettuce is sooo yesterday.

Micro-greens are the 21st century’s remarketing of the sprout. What is the difference between a sprout and a micro-green? Well in addition to the time from start to finish, a sprout only has its cotyledon leaves which are a plant’s simple “starter” leaves for the seed to draw energy from the sun. Micro-greens happen when the sprout grows its first “true” leaves and starts to take on the characteristics and look of a mature plant.

While sprouts from alfalfa and beans are ready to eat in three to five days from their start, micro-greens are harvested from 10 to 25 days from start. Sprouts are grown in water with no nutritional or growing medium while micro-greens are grown in soil or more commonly a soil-less mix.

Sprouts are served typically root, stem, young leaves combined, while micro-greens are cut from their roots and the growing medium and only the stem and leaves are served. The reason for this difference is that the sprout is living from the water and nutrition that was encased within the seed, while the micro-green will have exhausted that nutritional supply and will need some additional nutrition from the soil mix to continue growing.

Sprouts also grow in a closed environment like a jar or specialized sprouter and micro-greens are grown in a more open environment and sunlight. Micro-green producers like to hold the sprouts industry at arm's length as if to say their products are nothing at all alike, and if you want to be particular they are correct. But I think it’s similar to a particular producer in the chicken industry saying, “We raise capons, not broiler fryers! They’re completely different!” They’re not really; it’s the same bird, just different procedures in their production, that’s all. I think that every one likes to be noticed for what makes them special.

So now, instead of the simple sprouts, we have mini plants of lettuces, cabbages, Asian greens, cresses and radishes. These are then mixed into new combinations and dressed with whatever the chef chooses.

I have personally been a big fan of broccoli sprouts for years, and when Johns Hopkins School of Medicine published a study showing broccoli sprouts were full of sulforaphane, the compound that fights cancer, entire shelves of broccoli seeds emptied overnight and the seed industry had to reevaluate their inventory needs. Now, years later, broccoli seeds are still at least twice the price of other sprouting seeds.

From simply a production standpoint, micro-greens make a great change from lettuce because you can grow micro-greens in only a couple weeks while lettuce takes several weeks or months to grow to a marketable size. This means the price can be drastically cheaper than lettuce for a much more unique salad. Also, in years with heavy rain the tiny lettuce seeds are frequently washed out of the soil and entire crops are lost, while micro-green seeds are grown indoors under controlled conditions, ensuring produce when and where needed with almost no waste.

Another great thing about sprouts and micro-greens is that besides having a sprouting tray all you need to grow them is water and a sunny window. No fertilizer, soil, tractors, or laborers needed for picking. Seeds available for micro-greens are available in standard or organic form.

I don’t want to sugar coat it and make micro-greens sound like a perfect food. While there are many flavor and health benefits, there is one important drawback that I need to mention. The seeds used for sprouting and micro-greens may carry things like E. coli and sprouting them may just wake up and multiply the bacteria. Since the sprouts aren’t cooked this could be a danger.

Don’t use regular “off the shelf” seeds that you would ordinarily plant in your garden for sprouting. Seeds that are sold specifically to be used for sprouting and micro-greens are required to be tested for E. coli and salmonella, and seeds labeled “certified organic” are even more trustworthy. Even so, the general consensus is that the elderly, infants, and pregnant women should avoid any kind of sprouts.

An herb being made into a salad isn’t really a new thing, but the American public is just starting to catch on. Parsley has now been released from its purgatory on the side of your plate as decoration and is actually becoming a center point of the meal. Parsley salad is one of the most popular new things that are popping up on restaurant plates.

Sound odd to you? Next time you are at the grocery store just pick up a bunch of Italian flat-leafed parsley and when you get home strip the leaves from the stems (if you have a rabbit, give the stems to it and watch the smile on his fuzzy little face), dress the leaves with your favorite salad dressing, with maybe a sliced tomato or any other of your favorite salad accompaniments, and serve it with dinner. Goodbye standard salads!

Parsley may be mixed with other tender herbs like basil, cilantro, chervil, dill and mint to make an intensely flavored salad that will wake up your mouth as if from a deep slumber. Dressings can then become more simple, like clean vinaigrettes or citrus juices that don’t cover the flavor of the greens so the greens can finally compete for the tongue’s attention. Fresh herb salads add exciting new flavors to the dinner table, and they don’t need heavy salad dressing to give them the flavor that most people glug the dressing on for.

Lettuce isn’t going to disappear from the face of the earth; we’ll still use it in our salads and sandwiches at home. After all, only the most persnickety of home cooks will want to make micro-greens at home (what’s everybody looking at me for?). Lettuce is just going to become passé at the restaurant, just as mayonnaise was once a luxurious sauce for steaks but now has been demoted to a sandwich spread. Lettuce had its day and now it’s time to take a backseat to the younger, hipper greens.

So I’m sure you must be wondering what Greek salad is if they don’t use lettuce, and micro-greens and herb salads are just now getting to be popular. Here is a recipe for a true country style Greek salad. No lettuce here. It is a favorite of mine to bring to potlucks since it’s easy to make, easy to multiply into larger quantities, and a little bit goes a long way.

Greek Salad (Horiatiki = country salad)


2 cucumbers – peeled, seeded and cut into chunks

4 tomatoes, seeded and quartered

1 red onion, cut into chunks

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks

1 tablespoon oregano (fresh is best, dried will work)

½ cup Kalamata olives

Vinaigrette to taste

¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled

Toss the first seven ingredients together in a serving bowl and then crumble the feta cheese on top. Serve. Feel free to add capers, anchovies, fresh basil, and scallions if the muse should inspire you.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


LAKE COUNTY – A man on death row for the 1980 murder of his wife has sent officials a letter offering up the location of another woman's body, which he says is an attempt to resolve the missing woman's case once and for all.

Gerald Stanley, 64, has been on death row for 25 years, sent there for the August 1980 murder of his wife, Cynthia Rogers, who he shot to death at her father's resort in Nice. He was tried in Butte County due to pre-trial publicity in Lake County.

Stanley, who worked as a hunting guide, had a violent history with women before the Rogers murder.

He served four and a half years in prison for murdering Kathleen Rhiley, his first wife, in 1975, and was believed to be involved in the murder of Sheryl Ranee Wright, 19, of Redding, last seen the day before Cynthia Rogers was shot.

But there is another woman linked to Stanley whose ultimate whereabouts have been a mystery for decades: Diana Lynn Ramel.

In a phone conversation with Lake County News late last month, Stanley stated that he intended to turn over to law enforcement officials and the Tehama County Grand Jury the location of Ramel's body. Ramel went missing on Feb. 14, 1980.

“It's time to resolve this,” he said of Ramel's case.

For years, Stanley has promised to reveal Ramel's location, saying he only wanted to be granted an execution date in return.

Previously, he hasn't given up the information. But he appears to have followed through this time.

On Monday, Tehama County District Attorney Gregg Cohen confirmed to Lake County News that he had received a letter from Stanley the same day, outlining the location of Ramel's body.

Ramel and Stanley lived together in Manton, a small community in northeastern Tehama County, on the border with Shasta County.

Stanley maintains that he did not kill Ramel, but he says he did help dispose of her body.

Cohen said he's had a chance to review the handwritten letter, and he intends to meet with the local Department of Justice (DOJ) Crime Lab on Tuesday to discuss the feasibility of conducting a search.

There was a prior search for Ramel's body, said Cohen, although he doesn't know exactly when it took place, or where it was conducted.

Jack Leavitt, a Hayward attorney who has previously been sanctioned by the courts for attempting to help Stanley stop the appeals process in his death penalty case, said he found references in court records to a previous search, but he also didn't know the time frame. He believes it took place close to the area Stanley has identified in the recent letter.

That original search, Leavitt said, failed because it didn't go far enough, and the information Stanley offered didn't appear to pinpoint the location properly.

In the letter outlining the location, a copy of which Leavitt provided to Lake County News, Stanley writes that Ramel put chloral hydrate – a sedative used to induce sleep – in her wine, which killed her, “and I panicked the next morning.”

That led he and another man to bury her body in a creekbed, the letter states.

“I ask that Mr. Leavitt and I be allowed to explain federal attorneys are a fraud and delaying my case deliberately,” he said.

Stanley told Lake County News that he realizes he's not going to get an execution date, and that he's likely to die of a heart attack instead. Natural causes is reported to be the most common cause of death for death row inmates in California due to the lengthy appeals process.

Complaints over handling of death row case

Cohen said he believes Stanley offered the information because he wants to discuss with the world his anger with the Federal Defender's Office because of the repeated attempts to delay an execution.

“In the past it's always been that he would just like to end his life,” said Cohen.

That's been a consistent refrain with Stanley over the years, although some officials have doubted Stanley's sincerity.

Then, last March, came another wrinkle – a federal court judge ruled that juror misconduct and a breach of due process during the competency phase of Stanley's trial, which took place in late 1983 and early 1984 in Oroville, meant that the court needed to reexamine whether or not Stanley had been mentally competent to stand trial.

While Stanley's guilt was upheld in previous rulings, the March 2008 ruling by Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. could mean that Stanley's sentence is changed from death to life imprisonment.

The retroactive competency hearing is back in the Butte County Superior Court, where the original trial took place.

Stanley has complained that his court-appointed attorney, Dennis Hoptowit, represents the wishes of the Federal Defender's Office, not his own. However, Stanley turned down an opportunity for Leavitt to represent him last year, instead choosing to stay with Hoptowit.

Lake County District Attorney Jon Hopkins said he'll return to Butte County Superior Court on May 21 to set a date for a hearing on whether or not it's feasible, a quarter century later, to attempt to determine if Stanley was competent at the time of trial.

The proceedings have been put over as Hopkins attempts to locate the original trial transcripts, which he said weren't with the Butte County Superior Court. He said he has people looking through the court's storage, and also has transcript copies of his own and from the California Supreme Court to submit in case the original can't be found.

Leavitt said Stanley has indicated he intends to request that the court allow him to represent himself, an action which Leavitt said Stanley hasn't taken formally before.

Also making the possibility of an execution for Stanley unlikely is a current moratorium on executions in California, established following a February 2006 ruling in which a judge ordered the state to review its death penalty procedures over concerns about suffering of inmates and cruel and unusual punishment. The last execution in the state took place late in 2005.

Cohen said the Ramel matter is “an entirely separate matter” from Stanley's death row case, which doesn't necessitate the involvement of the Federal Defender's Office.

Stanley has stated in previous interviews that he had told the attorneys involved with his federal defense of Ramel's burial site, and they had visited and videotaped it.

Cohen said he didn't yet know how he was going to proceed in the matter, and that the weather conditions and the location – specifically, if it appears to be different from the original search area – would be factors.

“It's going to be dependent, too, on what DOJ's suggestion is going to be. I don't want to speculate what they're going to say,” he said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Before I return to my discussion of the Alternative Minimum Tax, a couple of important notes.

There is a scam email being sent to individuals targeting those who either did not receive a stimulus payment or felt they deserved a larger payment. This email, which looks official, urges taxpayers to respond by downloading information that will allow them to receive additional money. The IRS simply does not send out emails. So if you receive such an email, it is bogus.

The stimulus rebate received last year, which were based on 2007 income was actually advance refunds of amounts from one's 2008 return. If you didn’t get the full rebate of $600 or $300 for those with lower income or dependents, the IRS will calculate the rebate again based on 2008 data. If the recalculated rebate is larger than what was received last year, you will receive the difference. If the recalculated rebate is the same as last year's, or less, you do not have to pay it back. On most tax software there is a place to report what you actually received as a stimulus rebate.

In addition, while many people were getting ready for the holidays last December, there was a bill passed that effects the tax return preparation for the 2009 tax year.

The Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 was approved on Dec. 11, 2008. This act deals primarily with pensions, however under this act there is an important section that deals with retired individuals receiving Required Minimum Distributions (RMD). These are amounts which, in general, must be withdrawn from certain qualified pension plans once a taxpayer reaches the age of 70 ½ years of age.

In general, the penalty or excise tax applied when the RMD has not been taken has been eliminated for the tax year 2009, thus the RMD need not be withdrawn in 2009. This may benefit those who are taking withdrawals from their retirement account by not forcing withdrawals of retirement accounts that are dropping in value. By allowing the principal to remain in the account longer, it is hoped that a recovery will increase the value to the account.

In the last article I mentioned how new legislation could make one's 2009 tax return potentially painful; well I was speaking of what was happening at the time. Both the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees have since announced that they are working on new tax legislation. These new potential laws will most likely add a layer of complexity to the existing law. The Senate promises $275 billion and the house promises $30 billion worth of change. These implied promises sound very good, but what will the reality bring?

When judging tax legislation, one must remember that there will be a heck of a lot of speeches and posturing until we really see the reality. So far, none of the analysis of the proposals seems exciting or likely to bring large tax refunds. There will most likely be a continuation of promises and a lot of politics before we actually see workable proposals.

Many of the proposals made will never see the light of day; one such proposal is the “Rangel Rule,” named after the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. This powerful congressional committee is where all income tax bills get their start, as well as most governmental spending begins. Other committees may propose changes, but all the changes come from this committee. Lake County should be proud that our congressional representative Mike Thompson is a member of this committee.

This rule states that the IRS cannot charge interest or penalties on the collection of past income tax owed. It turns out that the honorable Mr. Rangel paid $5,000 in past taxes he owed but refused to pay any interest or penalties on those taxes. While this is one of my favorite proposals, I seriously doubt that it will see the light of day.

This process makes it crucial that we all be aware of the upcoming changes and determine what, if any, these changes will have on our tax or financial position. This does not mean shifting through all the politics and reports, just that when the final bill is signed that you know the important elements and that you decide if you need to adjust your strategy.

It appears that the Alternative Minimum Tax will not be ignored and will be patched as usual instead of being permanently corrected. The patch, in this case, is a temporarily increase in the exemption level. This tact was probably taken because had it not been proposed, then 20-30 million taxpayers hit with an increase in their tax bill would create a protest too big to ignore.

This of course means that one should have a strategy. As I mentioned in my last article, the days when one could just ignore their tax and financial position has ended. We must be aware how changes in law and finances affect our position.

Of course, a detailed strategy in regard to the AMT must be individualized, but in general, it means, to review your tax return after it has been filed and projecting or estimating what will happen this year and over the next few years.

If you are expecting major changes such as retirement or having children or if there is a potential for higher taxes due to the AMT or less deductions or just more income, then measures should be taken to reverse these effects. This can mean a variety of strategies that in general involve the timing of receiving or paying income and expenses. There may be other tactics that can be taken. The time to act is now, while there is time to plan.

Of course, it’s hard to know what’s going to happen in the future and at this time, it may not be possible. However, once we get into the habit of planning and doing periodic reviews, then when you spot a change, action can be taken before a huge tax bill comes your way.

Jon Meyer is a local tax accountant and enrolled agent with more than 25 years experience in tax preparation. The office of Jon the “Tax Man Meyer “also offers retirement planning and insurance options. Questions regarding this article can be made by calling 928-5200.


T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.


Some of you may know that the pursuit of the bliss of Soul music impassioned my formative years. It made a very constrictive era tolerable. My dear mother took me to see Chubby Checker and a host of other twistin’ rock and rollers at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. That was in1960. The die was cast.

I saw James Brown in his prime several times, twice at what used to be known as the Oakland Auditorium, once at Winterland in San Francisco. I also saw J.B. here in Lake County when he appeared here last. It was a good show. His feet were still fast. But only in eight second spurts. It was no comparison to the nonstop, frenetic, Godfather-getdown on it action of yesteryear.

On my Junior Prom night, we drove to San Francisco’s Basin Street West to see Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. They were good. Smokey was my favorite artist at the time. But the opening act, the late great Tammi Terrell, simply blew Smokey and the Miracles away. She showed the audience every dance that was happening in these United States. She was somethin’!

I’m getting ahead of myself here, but can’t help remembering seeing the legendary Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton at the Julia Morgan Theater in Berkeley just a short month before she passed away at a Los Angeles boarding home. She came on stage using a walker for mobility. She gave an outstanding performance and was not to be messed with. She had a drunk thrown out of the venue. Don’t get it twisted, but she reminded me of my grandfather. I was shocked. It was like a message from beyond.

I had opportunities to see both Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix. Incredulously, I spurned both chances. Redding played the Bay Area shortly before he died. I was still in high school. Some friends had a free ticket. I declined for some strange reason. It was probably a case of puppy love or a variation thereof. I was so sad when he died.

I was in Oregon in the late ’60s when Hendrix returned from England to his hometown of Seattle a huge international star. Some friends invited me but I declined. Somehow, I hadn’t yet discovered or understood what was indeed possible with the power of Soul. That was the night the Seattle authorities pulled the plug on Jimi as he played “The Star Spangled Banner.” By the time he died I understood. I was sad again.

I did, however, see a very pregnant Aretha Franklin in Portland in ’68 or ’69. Lady Soul drove ‘em nuts. The crowd went so crazy the show was abruptly stopped. I remember a phalanx of Portland police lifting Aretha high in the air and using a “flying wedge” through the crowd to get her off stage. At least they were concerned for Aretha’s safety. They knocked a lot of folks to the ground though.

The next time I saw Aretha Franklin was at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West in 1971. As I recall it was advertised that she would be recording a live album but I might be wrong on that. Maybe they didn’t advertise that fact. Anyway, Aretha tore the roof off again. She couldn’t help it. She was at the top of her game and the band she had that night was beyond belief.

Amazingly enough, I still possess my journal from 1971 and I hereby gleefully quote the young CyberSoulMan:

“She had the baddest band I’ve ever seen. King Curtis (musical director) with the Memphis Horns and the Kingpins rhythm section consisting of Cornell Dupree on guitar, Jerry Jermott, bass, Bernard 'Pretty' Purdie, drums, Pancho Morales, conga drums, Truman Thomas, electric piano and Billy Preston, organ. The background vocals were handled by the Sweethearts of Soul. Of course Aretha played piano too.”

The songs released on the album include “Respect,” “Love The One You’re With,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Make It With You,” “Don’t Play That Song,” “Dr. Feelgood,” “Spirit In The Dark” and “Reach Out And Touch.”

Aretha and The Sweethearts of Soul sang with passion and power. The Fillmore was filled to capacity with hippies and hipsters, black, white and in between. We were yet holdovers from the Summer of Love. Aretha’s voice touched us in our heart of hearts. We felt it in the depths of our being and screamed our approval in joyous harmony.

But wait. When Aretha seemingly ends the show with “Spirit In the Dark” and plaintively implores of the crowd, can she move with the spirit, can she move with the spirit, CAN SHE MOVE WITH THE SPIRIT, she leaves the stage.

Hold it. She’s coming back to the stage. Jesus, on her arm is RAY CHARLES! It’s *&%$#in’ RAY CHARLES! It’s pandemonium in the Fillmore. They launch into a reprise of “Spirit In The Dark.” Papa Ray takes the keyboards and launches an improvisational vamp.

“Wait a minute. Listen to this. I got one mo’ thang I gotta say. When Aretha sings, can you feel the spirit.

“YES,” we scream. The crowd is one. The spirit and the crowd are one. Ray rises from the piano and is led off the stage.

“More!” we scream.

“Ray Charles,” says Aretha. “The Right Reverend Ray.”

“More! More!”

Now Aretha is preaching.

“Ladies and gentlemen, before we leave, I’d like to say before we leave that you have been much more than I could have ever expected. I’d like to leave you singin” ...


Many of us in the crowd are holding hands.

As I end this, jolted by the realization that’s it’s round midnight and I need to get this in to the editor, I’m struck by what a powerful memory that is. I’m also moved that Aretha’s instruction inside her sermonette to reach out and touch still applies today. More urgently than ever. Universally.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts!


Upcoming cool event:

Calling For Light. A Spring Concert of Poetry and Music. Carolyn Hawley, piano, Chopin and original works. Accompaniment to poetry. T. Watts, accompaniment on trumpet. Lake County Poets LaureateMary McMillan, Sandra Wade, Carolyn Wing Greenlee, James Bluewolf and Jim Lyle. Sunday, March 15, 3 p.m. Galilee Lutheran Church, 8860 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Tickets $10 in advance at Watershed Books, Lakeport and Wild About Books, Clearlake. $15 at the door. Children attend free. A benefit for KPFZ 88.1 FM.

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at


Eddie Money will return to Konocti Harbor for a Saturday show. Courtesy photo.




KELSEYVILLE – This Friday, Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa hosts the rock legend Eddie Money with Jesse Money of MTV's “Rock The Cradle” and special guests Lake County rising stars, The Lost Boys.

Eddie Money’s career spans more than four decades. He was a fixture in the San Francisco rock scene for several years.

Much like the members of The Lost Boys, Money began singing in rock bands while still in high school.

Edward Joseph Mahoney was born in 1949. He was going to be a New York City cop. That was before he had two tickets to paradise. He took on a new name, a new persona and became Eddie Money.

After leaving the police academy in New York, Money relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area to pursue a music career. It was there that he joined Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin's backup band, after her death in 1970.

Money became involved with Bay Area concert promoter Bill Graham's management company. Graham became a mentor to Money, helping him negotiate a recording contract with Columbia Records.

Money's raspy, raw sound captured audiences immediately. The first two singles from Money's first record, “Baby, Hold On” and “Two Tickets to Paradise,” reached No. 11 and No. 22, respectively, on the 1978 charts.

A notable duet with Ronnie Spector in 1986, “Take Me Home Tonight,” combined Money’s trademark sound complemented by Spector’s incredible range and bad girl spirit. The song reached the top 10 on the Billboard Music Charts.

He became the first artist to sign with Graham's surviving namesake management company, Wolfgang Records, in 1995.

Money’s music remains a solid staple as seemingly timeless lyrics and tunes fill the libraries of generations of fans. He’s had many comebacks, but he never really went away.

Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa is located at 8727 Soda Bay Road in Kelseyville.

For information call toll free: 800-660-LAKE or visit

E-mail Mandy Feder at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


John Gray was arrested on Saturday for homicide. He's being held in connection with the death of Eric Joaquin. Lake County Jail photo.



KELSEYVILLE – A Kelseyville man is in custody for allegedly murdering his roommate.

John Robert Gray, 43, was arrested at 4:30 p.m. Saturday by sheriff's officials, who had begun looking for him earlier in the day.

The murder victim is 37-year-old Eric Joaquin, who was reportedly beaten to death, according to one neighbor who spoke with sheriff's deputies.

Lake County Sheriff's officials did not respond to weekend calls or e-mail regarding the incident.

Several neighbors spoke with Lake County News, but asked not to be identified for reasons that included fear of retaliation from some of the subjects who had frequented the home.

On Saturday morning at 9:42 a.m. sheriff's dispatch put out a call to sheriff's deputies about an incident at Gray's home at 10163 Del Monte Way in the Clear Lake Riviera, based on a 911 call that appeared to have been made from the address. The original report indicated the victim may have been shot, according to radio reports.

There, law enforcement reportedly found Joaquin's body inside the house. The street was then cordoned off as deputies began interviewing neighbors.

One of the neighbors, who called the situation “a nightmare,” added, “Whoever did this is a scary person.”

All of the neighbors said sheriff's officials confirmed to them that a homicide had taken place. One man said he was told Gray was the suspect and Joaquin the victim, and that they believed Joaquin had died sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning.

Joaquin had moved into the house with Gray within the last three to four months, according to one neighbor. That man also reported seeing Gray and Joaquin working together on a project car at the house.

The neighbors reported not hearing anything on Friday night, and one man said he had not seen Gray in several days, a circumstance he called “kind of weird.”

“In the last few days it's been kind of quiet over there,” the man said.

Gray was not arrested at his home, the man added.

One of the neighbors reported sharing hellos and occasional friendly waves with Gray and Joaquin, but he had been concerned about constant comings and goings of others who had been visiting the house at all hours, raising concerns about possible drug activity.

Over the last month and a half the house had been visited by the sheriff's office four times, said a neighbor, including once on Feb. 22, according to a sheriff's log entry. One of the neighbors said he guessed they must have had a scanner in the house; shortly before sheriff's deputies arrived on the Feb. 22 visit, several people came running outside and appeared to be hiding things.

Sheriff's deputies were called back to the Del Monte Way address on Sunday on the report of people taking property out of the home.

Gray, whose booking sheet lists him as being self-employed, is being held in the Lake County Jail on $500,000 bail. Jail records indicate that he's due to appear in court on Tuesday in Department 2.

Harold LaBonte contributed to this report.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Kelseyville High School students marched to the district office on Friday to highlight their concerns over the district's interim budget. Superintendent Boyce McClain met with students and promised to hold an assembly next Tuesday to explain the budget to them. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



KELSEYVILLE – Following a district school board meeting earlier this week to accept an interim budget, a group of Kelseyville High students held a march to their district office to share their own concerns about what the future holds for education.

It was at about 1:15 p.m. on Friday that the group of well over 100 students – carrying a banner that said, “We have voices. Learn to listen” – marched down the hill from Kelseyville High and approached the Kelseyville Unified School District Office.

The sentiment among the participating students was that they wanted to protect their education. One female student urged her peers to show respect to administrators and teachers, and they could expect respect in return.

District Superintendent Boyce McClain, who has headed the district for nine and a half years, was there to welcome the students and speak with them.

Before the students appeared, McClain told Lake County News that his office had been notified that a group of about a dozen students might appear, so he appeared surprised when it was dozens more.

It quickly became evident that they couldn't all fit in the district's board room, so together students and administrators walked back up to the high school, and were joined along the way by more students, so that the group was approaching about 200 people.

McClain and high school Principal Matt Cockerton decided to have the group move to the gym, where they could use the sound system. There, they were joined by still more students and about a dozen teachers.

Administrators assured students that they were aware of their concerns. McClain told students he would hold an assembly to discuss the budget issues on Tuesday.

In an interview with Lake County News after the demonstration, McClain said he had received letters from students who were concerned about losing sports and educational programs, and increasing class sizes, among other things.

“These are great kids,” said McClain. “They want to be able to be heard and I just deeply respect that.”

He added that he wants the students to know that he hears their concerns.

The Tuesday assembly, McClain said, will give him a chance to explain the situation to students fully, and give them accurate information. “I just want to show them that we'll be fine.”

“I think it's great that they're involved and concerned about what's happening in the education system,” school board member Gary Olson said of the students.

Olson said education is struggling statewide.

It's true for districts across the rest of the county as well. This week, the Konocti Unified School District held more community meetings to take input on several options to save that district money in the face of deep cuts, with proposals including closing some middle schools. Konocti Unified's board is set to meet March 4 to look at the issue further.

Elsewhere, districts are looking at cutting programs and possibly more teaching positions.

Lake County Superintendent of Schools Dave Geck said the situation countywide is looking tough.

“Across the county, all districts are looking at where they can effect cost savings as far away from classrooms as possible,” he said.

Based on an initial analysis, Geck said the county's schools are looking at $5.7 million in cuts from now through the 2009-10 budget year, for a 16.6 percent reduction.

He estimated all of the schools will have to lay off personnel. When 85 percent of education budgets are personnel, and cuts are estimated at 20 percent, “There's no way to avoid people's lives getting impacted,” Geck said.

Last year was the first time in Geck's 10 years at the Lake County Office of Education that they had layoffs. Looking toward the year ahead, he said, “I don't look forward to having to do that.”

An ongoing dialogue

Concerns for students and staff alike had arisen earlier in the week, when the Kelseyville Unified board convened for a special Monday meeting to discuss the budget situation.

In the wake of the state budget's passage, McClain said district administration put a budget presentation together in about four hours on Monday for the district board to consider. He called it “a very quick look” at the coming year's budget.

At that meeting, the Konocti Unified Teachers Association expressed their concern about the potential budget, said union President Rico Abordo, an English teacher at Kelseyville High.

Abordo said the union made clear its ideas about where it would like to see the district's money spent, urging against the district keeping an a fiscal reserve of more than 5 percent.

Anything over that amount should be spent on students and employees, Abordo said. “We're an educational institution, not a savings institution.”

Abordo said the union and the district are taking part in an ongoing conversation, and he said those initial concerns the union discussed Monday already have been addressed. He said he feels there has been a healthy dialogue between the board of trustees and the bargaining unit.

Olson said trustees needed to approve an interim budget by March 15 as required by the state. “Nothing of what we approved is set in stone. It's based on what we think might happen. It's sort of a worst case scenario.”

In normal years, the interim budget has never been met with much attention, said Olson. “We're not in normal times at all.”

Abordo said the district has been run extremely well over the years, and credited McClain for his work to keep Kelseyville Unified fiscally solvent, and for dealing effectively with controversial issues, such as the changing of Kelseyville High's mascot from an Indian to a knight.

“We're probably in better position than most other districts,” Abordo said of the fiscal situation.

Olson also credits McClain for keeping a good relationship going between the union and the district.

“We've worked real hard to pay the teachers as much as we can afford to,” he said, adding that the district offers its teachers the best benefits package of any group of teachers in the county.

Morale in the district was the highest it's been in a long time until the economic crunch started, said Olson.

Kelseyville Unified's situation looks better than some

McClain said the school district's budget actually is looking a lot healthier than they initially expected. They're not facing a big midyear cut, and have implemented a spending freeze.

Olson said last year the district lost close to 40 classified employees, many of them part-time, and 13 teachers. He attributed much of the district's budget situation to “the elephant in the room” – declining enrollment.

He said he understands personally what teachers are going through – his wife is a teacher at Riviera Elementary, and she went from a full-time to a half-time position last year.

Looking ahead, district officials had expected as much as a $1.4 million cut to their $15 million annual budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year, but McClain said he's since penciled it out and that amount comes in under $1 million.

McClain, who said the district has a $1 million a month payroll, has four teachers retiring, and that may mean that the district can shift assignments and not have to lay off any teachers this year.

Abordo said that layoff notices are due on March 13.

He said that on Friday the high school librarian retired and that means the junior high school librarian will have to do double duty over the rest of the year. As a result, the high school library will be closed two and a half days a week.

Over the next two weeks, as districts finalize their budgets, Geck said he expects tough decisions to be made.

Local districts and government agencies also are meeting to look at ways they can make joint purchases, share resources and be more cost-effective in their operations.

“The piece that's really a wild card that's still being defined is the flexibility that district will have inside of their categorical programs,” said Geck, explaining that the flexibility came out of the state's budget compromise.

Categorical funding is that which comes from state and federal governments and is targeted for specific programs and purposes, according to the Education Data Partnership. The use of funds usually is restricted.

“The devil is definitely in the details,” said Geck.

Harold LaBonte contributed to this report.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




Kelseyville Unified Superintendent Boyce McClain speaks to students at Kelseyville High's gym on Friday, February 27, 2009. The students marched to the district office, and then met with officials at the school's gym. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



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